TN, Karnataka appear heading for a face-off over Mekedatu

Chennai/Bengaluru: The contentious Cauvery issue took the centre stage again Thursday with the Tamilnadu assembly adopting a resolution urging the Union government to withdraw its approval for preparing a DPR on the proposed Mekedatu dam across the river in Karnataka and the upper riparian state asserting that the project was its “right.”

At the same time, Karnataka sought to reach out to Tamilnadu, saying it did not want to have a fight or misunderstanding with anyone on the issue, clarifying that Mekedatu was only a balancing reservoir and there was no question of misusing it.

While Tamilnadu opposed the project, saying it was in violation of the final award of the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal and the judgement of Supreme Court, and would affect its share of Cauvery water, Karnataka said there was no scope to explore possibility for irrigation in the area of the multipurpose (drinking and power) project.

A specially convened sitting of Tamilnadu assembly adopted an unanimous resolution condemning the Central Water Commission (CWC) for giving the permission to Karnataka for preparing the Detailed Project Report for the reservoir.

It urged the Union Water Resources Ministry “to immediately order the CWC to withdraw the permission.” The resolution requested the Centre to direct Karnataka not to take up any construction works at Mekedatu or at any other place in the Cauvery basin without the consent of Tamilnadu and in violation of the final order of the tribunal and the judgement of the apex court.

After the CWC on 22 November gave its nod for the DPR, opposition parties in Tamilnadu have condemned it and staged a protest in Tiruchirappalli in the heart of the Cauvery delta region, claiming that the dam would affect the interest of the state farmers.

Chief Minister K Palaniswami, who piloted the resolution, later wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi enclosing a copy of the resolution and its translated version, requesting him to take immediate action and direct the Water Resources Ministry to withdraw the CWC’s nod.

Tracing the Cauvery dispute between the two states, he said it was due to the “untiring” efforts of late chief minister Jayalalithaa and the intervention of the Supreme Court that the final award of the tribunal was notified.

The apex court, in its judgement had affirmed that the upper riparian state shall not take any action so as to affect the scheduled deliveries of water to the lower riparian states,” he said in the letter, a copy of which was released to media.

Earlier in the assembly, replying to the discussion on the resolution, the chief minister said the Centre’s “partisan attitude” on the Cauvery issue was causing anguish. Leader of the Opposition and DMK President M K Stalin wanted the resolution to be condemnatory of the Central government, maintaining that the approval for DPR was against federalism.

In Bengaluru, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy held consultations with his predecessors and former water resource ministers on irrigation schemes with the government saying the Mekedatu project was its right and “lifetime dream.”

“It is the right of our state, we don’t want to fight or have misunderstanding with anyone on this issue. It is a balancing reservoir, there is no question of us misusing it,” Karnataka water resources minister D K Shivakumar told reporters here after the meeting.

Responding to a question about Tamilnadu rejecting the state’s request for talks to clear doubts on the project, he said: “We request them (Tamilnadu), they are like our brothers, we are friends… we have to share this water… we don’t want to fight with them.”

The meeting was attended by former chief ministers Siddaramaiah and Jagadish Shettar, and former water resource ministers Allam Veerabadhrappa, K S Eshwarappa, H K Patil, M B Patil, Basavaraj Bommai, also technical and legal experts.

The previous Siddaramaiah government had decided to implement the Rs 5,912 crore Mekedatu Multipurpose (drinking and power) project, which involves building a balancing reservoir with a capacity of about 66 tmcft, near Kanakapura in Ramanagaram district.

Shivakumar said the state government was preparing the DPR and was taking all necessary steps to protect the interest of the state in accordance with law. “With utmost humility I appeal that both of us (Karnataka and Tamilnadu) should work together in protecting the interest of our people,” he said.

The minister said he had written to Palaniswami and said there was no meaning in “unnecessarily objecting to the project. The project was being done within our state and with our money and without violating the judgement of the Supreme Court on the Cauvery dispute.”

In his letter, Shivakumar said, “The government desires to have an amicable solution. It appears that some misconceptions about the proposed project have occurred in government’s and Tamilnadu people’s mind though actual reality of the project is different.”